With the deadline of August 31 approaching to reach our $2000 goal for Joe's shed, I thought I'd share a little background on this story...
I met Joe in early November 2016. Word had gotten 'round that I enjoyed helping veterans. After introducing himself, he said, "I want one of those chairs Bill O'Reilly helps out with." Since I don't have a TV or watch news, I asked him to describe it.
Within a few words, I realized what he wanted.
"Oh," I said, "An Ac...tion Track Chair?"
"Yes. I want one of those."
My mind locked on "Where could I find a charity that gives one of those to veterans?" I began with Bill O'Reilly's website, of course, but that was only a start. Within a few clicks, the Independence Fund page came up.
After a brief review, I said, "Joe, it looks like there's an organization in North Carolina that could give you one."
"What do we have to do?'
"I'm not sure. Let me give them a call."
With Joe sitting nearby, I called the Independence Fund and quite frankly, tried to quell my excitement. Joe qualified on every point- it seemed to good to be true.
I hung up the phone. "Joe, it sounds like this could happen for you." I tried to restrain my thrill with cautiousness, for in my experience with veterans over the years, they've been promised so much, with so little to come of it, I didn't want to over-promise and under-deliver.
"What do we have to do?"
"Let's get going with the online application. We can save it until you return with your DD214 and VA rating documents. I'll scan them and we'll send them in with the application."
As he powerchaired up the sidewalk, I was impressed that the encounter with Joe and interaction with the Independence Fund had gone so easy.
"Who is this guy? I wondered. I prayed, "God, if this can work out for this veteran, just this once, please make it so."
Joe appeared the next day with his paperwork. We completed the application, and I clicked SEND.
With that done, Joe began to tell me a little about himself.
He was a drummer in bands that played up and down the West Coast. The frequency of his mentioning his mother revealed he had been very close to her.
He was a Marine and was in Vietnam 1967-1968. "I was at Khe Sahn," he said, looking down, then away.
I was somewhat familiar with that look, that gesture. Two words can invoke such time travel, though the veteran is sitting across the table from me.
Khe Sahn. I was 10 years old at the time. Oblivious to what the Vietnam War was about. But Joe's faraway look spoke volumes. When my Vietnam veteran husband Richard would meet another Vietnam veteran and a certain Southeast Asia location was mentioned, they both would drop their shoulders, look down, each palming a cigarette and talk in low voices. I would back up, giving them the space they needed for something I knew nothing about. I didn't belong in that. I cared. But I didn't belong. I was only to wait.
I still have not looked up the battle of Khe Sahn. Because this effort about the Track Chair and now the shed, is not about what happened back then. It's about welcoming someone home at a different time, a different place, and it being okay. Today.
At least it is for me.
(To be continued...)
To donate to Joe's shed, visit gofundme.com/keep-joe-rolling.
A 50-something woman comes home to a place she's never been before.